Italian MoD approves pending payments for F-35 fighters, but the Government intends to cut the number of jets

Italy payments F-35 cut number
Italian MoD approves pending payments for F-35 fighters, but the Government intends to cut the number of jets.

The Italian Defense Minister confirmed that Italy will pay the pending bills for the parts of the F-35 aircraft to Lockeed Martin, but has also declared that the Government continues to have doubts about the program and intends to revise it. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will soon be talking with US President Donald Trump about Italy's intentions on the JSF program.

The Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force, General Alberto Rosso, is very concerned about these statements and the persistent doubts about the acquisition of the aircraft: "the F35 is the only viable way. The alternative would certainly consist of older and more expensive aircraft, "he said.

Italy joined the F-35 program in 1998. Initially the Government had planned to purchase 131 aircraft for the Italian Air Force and the Italian Navy. Subsequently, in 2012, the program was revised and the number dropped to 90 jets.

Invoice payments were blocked pending the results of the technical evaluation of the program requested by the Italian Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta. This assessment is now complete and in the next few days Trenta will approve the payment of the debt amounting to 389 million euros.

The dossier made by the experts will be sent to the Government and will be discussed by Conte with Trump. It seems certain that Italy will make a further cut in numbers and will split aircraft deliveries over a longer time to increase the payment tranches. Furthermore, the plan envisages to base all the F-35Bs of the Air Force and Navy to Amendola AFB to save on operating costs and could also require the common use between the two armed forces of part of the "jump jet" fleet.

The opinion of Gen. Rossi is in contrast with that of politicians and he reiterated the importance of the introduction of the aircraft. "The F35 is not only a combat system but a cultural revolution that radically changes the way in which armed force operates. Pilots are enthusiastic about it, it has skills that go beyond our imagination, it is an aircraft that improves the Air Force," he said.

Currently there are 11 Italian F35s in service and the twelfth will be delivered soon. Italy has 25 qualified pilots and about 250 maintenance specialists.

Written by Matteo Sanzani

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